You may have heard that probiotics are good for your stomach health, but did you know that probiotics are also good for your oral health? Your mouth has a mixture of “good” and “bad” bacteria. Your regular care such as brushing and flossing may not do enough to rid your mouth of the “bad bacteria”. There are many research reports saying that probiotics can help fight tooth decay, gum diseases and bad breath, which have boosted interest in their use. By proper education about the benefits and proper use, we can help people understand how probiotics can improve oral health.
What Are Probiotics?
Probiotics are good live bacteria and yeasts. They are helpful, primarily in terms of digestion because they help with gut health. They can be found in supplements and certain foods.
There are two strains of “good bacteria” found in the mouth; one of them promotes healing, and the second one helps to kill the harmful bacteria. Both these good bacteria can be easily introduced into the mouth with a probiotic lozenge taken once daily.
How do Probiotics Work?
Your body is loaded with good and bad bacteria. When the balance between good and bad bacteria is disrupted, probiotics can help you restore it (The good bacteria, might have been lost after taking antibiotics).
Probiotic works by filling the mouth with healthy bacteria that kills off the bad and allows the good bacteria to flourish in a healthy environment. A healthy balance between good & bad bacteria can help improve your oral health!
Natural Sources of Oral Probiotics
Diet alone provides abundant amounts of prebiotics that feed probiotic bacteria in your body. Foods that include beneficial prebiotics include raw oats, unrefined wheat, barley, onions, garlic, chicory root, flax seeds, apples, asparagus etc.
Probiotic foods include yogurt, cultured cottage cheese, butter milk, tempeh (high protein gut friendly food) etc. Some are available as chewable tablets/supplements or lozenges. These allow the beneficial bacteria to be delivered directly to the mouth’s surfaces to boost oral health.
Some oral health products contain probiotics like mouthwash and toothpaste. Probiotic mouthwash has been shown to be effective in preventing plaque build-up. Some companies have even introduced probiotic toothpaste to rid your mouth of bad bacteria while preserving good bacteria.
Are There Side Effects from Probiotics?
Good bacteria are generally considered safe because it’s already present in the human body. For most people, this is true and ingesting probiotics will have little to no effect. However, there can be some side effects to taking probiotics.
- For the first few days after starting probiotics, you may have a stomach upset, diarrhoea, gas, or bloating.
- Some people can have an allergic reaction showing up as severe digestive responses to the probiotics.
How Should I Use Probiotics for Oral Health?
Beneficial effects of probiotics can be found only if individuals adopt adequate oral hygiene measures.
– Lozenges should be used once daily for at least 28 consecutive days. To get the greatest result from these lozenges, they should dissolve in the mouth over a 10-minute period immediately following the patients’ oral hygiene regimen.
– There are powder forms, which can be sprinkled on tongue & after 2 minutes, it can be swished in the mouth & swallowed.
– Yakult milk is available to be consumed for few weeks to restore good bacteria, but not continued for long as it has high sugar content, the homogenisation destroys milk molecules & has artificial sweeteners too. Hence, it is a good practice to resort to natural resources, which are mentioned above.
Nothing else should be consumed by mouth for at least 30 minutes after taking the probiotics.
How do I know, if I need them?
Though Probiotics show promise in their ability to reduce the severity of tooth decay, gum diseases and bad breath, it might not be needed as supplements for all those people, whose oral health is fine or can be controlled with regular professional &/or home care measures. There are few patients whose tooth decay & gum disease are not coming under control or keep progressing & it is a good approach to try probiotics as a part of their professional treatment. So, use it only on the suggestion of a dentist.
However, you may introduce naturally available products (the details are mentioned in Natural Sources of Oral Probiotics section of this article) into your daily diet with some discipline & regularity. This is a better approach, instead of buying artificially prepared ones, which have few negative sides to them, which also serves as a very good preventive measure for dental & gut issues.